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Variant Influenza Virus (Swine Flu) Symptoms (cont.)

Preventing the spread of illness begins with decreasing contact with other people. For example, at the onset of the H1N1 flu outbreak in the spring of 2009, Mexico had soccer games played in empty stadiums, and public transportation was curtailed. Schools were closed in New York City, San Antonio, and San Diego after children who had traveled to Mexico on vacation returned with the swine flu infection. Travel advisories worldwide were posted to avoid not only Mexico, but also the U.S. and Canada.

Most schools, health care centers, and businesses have action plans in place for individuals who may have an infection, whether it is a cold, vomiting, diarrhea, or a skin infection. For people with upper respiratory tract infections like influenza, recommendations include staying home from work or school if you are ill and not returning to school or work until you have been free of fever (100 F or 37.7 C) for 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medication.

During flu season hospitals have plans developed to isolate patients who may be complaining of flu-like illnesses, whether the symptoms are due to "regular" or "variant" influenza. Patients may be placed in isolated rooms and made to wear surgical masks until they are examined and screened to make certain that influenza is not the cause of their illness. This might become a significant burden on hospitals and clinics if too many people show up to be seen. Imagine what would happen if waiting rooms were overwhelmed with coughing people. It would be difficult to isolate each one.

Variant influenza virus prevention tips

People need to remain calm in the face of a constant barrage of press releases that act as a scoreboard for where and how many influenza cases have been found. Remember that the large majority of people infected with variant influenza virus infections around the world have done well without medication. Nonetheless, it pays to be prepared as follows:

  • If there are cases of variant virus flu in the area, prevention starts with avoiding crowds of people.
  • Other prevention issues are mostly common sense, such as good hand washing practices, avoid touching the face, mouth, nose, and eyes with your hands, and getting plenty of rest and fluids to maintain a strong immune system.
  • If symptoms do begin, it is worthwhile contacting your family physician, health department, or local hospital to ask what to do.
  • Staying at home and preventing disease spread to others is the first step.
  • Advice about supportive care such as fluids and fever control measures may be given by phone.
  • Prescription medication for oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza), antiviral medications that can treat variant virus and regular flu, may be also prescribed, but some health care practitioners may want to examine a patient before prescribing these drugs.

Complications of variant influenza virus

Influenza may cause some people to become very ill. Dehydration and pneumonia are major complications of influenza. Regardless of the altruism of not exposing other people to infection, sick people should seek medical care if it is needed. Guidelines have been spelled out clearly by the CDC and how they apply to various groups.

We've learned how to minimize the spread of influenza epidemics, but as the events of 2009 fade from our memory, we need to remember that influenza, both regular and variant, is not something to ignore.


United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Influenza (Flu)." Aug. 10, 2016. <>.

Last Editorial Review: 2/24/2017

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